Jewish and Persian Connections Mission

In response to statements emanating from the Middle East regarding nuclear threat to both the Jewish and Persian peoples, we seek to project an alternative voice on Jewish- Persian relations that disseminates knowledge about the historical and cultural ties between these two peoples, fosters friendship and openings for creative exchange, and contributes to the identity of adults and children of mixed Jewish and Persian ancestry.

Seeking Your Personal Stories and Intellectual Contributions!

Please submit your personal writings on the following topics:
a) Relationships between Persians and Jews
b) Raising a Persian Jewish child
C) Historical and/or current affairs between Persians and Jews/ Iran and Israel
D) Current Debate: Is the current conflict between Iran and Israel inherently tied into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?

All submissions welcome including poetry, links and other recommendations. Please email any submissions to Authors are responsible for providing respectful, factually accurate, and fully citated submissions as a pre-requisite for inclusion. Articles should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs in length up to a maximum of 10 pages. Please use proper citation when referencing another writer or speaker. Assume no specific religious knowledge and explain all references to any religions. Translate all non-English words used, including Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino or Yiddish. Writers wishing to anonymously post may use their first name only. Please send all submissions to All information outside of your submission will remain strictly confidential including your email and contact information. Thank you for your contributions!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Benedictus. An Ambitious Iranian Jewish American Collaboration

Review by Lale' Shahparaki

Accessed 10/04/2007

An Ambitious International Collaboration among Iranian, Israeli and American Artists is worth your support! Created by Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, Motti Lerner, Roberta Levitow, Daniel Michaelson and Torange Yeghiazarian

San Francisco - Golden Thread Productions' 10th Anniversary Season opens with an ambitious international collaboration, Benedictus, bringing together acclaimed artists from Iran, Israel and the United States: Motti Lerner, one of Israel's most provocative contemporary playwrights, Torange Yeghiazarian, Artistic Director of Golden Thread, Iranian-American director Mahmood Karimi-Hakak of Siena College and American designer Daniel Michaelson of Bennington College and designer for the acclaimed 'Spring Awakening' at the Public Theatre, and dramaturg Roberta Levitow, founder of Theatre Without Borders. Propelled by world events and against a backdrop of an imminent US invasion of Iran, two estranged childhood friends, one Jewish and one Muslim, born in the same town in Iran, agree to a secret meeting in a Benedictine monastery in Rome to negotiate a price for safety and freedom. The cast includes renowned Iranian theatre and cinema thespian, Ali Pourtash,* Egyptian born Arab-American actor, Al Faris*, most recently seen in 'The Unit' at the invitation of its creator, David Mamet, as well as veteran Bay Area performer, Earll Kingston*. The play runs September 29th through October 21st at the Thick House in San Francisco. Opening night reception will be hosted by Baraka Restaurant. For more information visit

'When we began the Iran/Israel/US project two years ago,' says Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian, 'we didn't imagine how disturbingly timely the subject of US-Iran relations would be today.' Given the impossibility of meeting in Iran and the complexities of meeting in Israel, these artists are working in the US to create collaborative theatre in the midst of escalating political conflict amongst their home countries. The piece created offers an opportunity to engage non-violently and creatively with the historical, social, religious and aesthetic dimensions of this crucial inter-relationship. Benedictus explores how the relationship among Iran, Israel, and United States is impacting the world. The work began in the summer of 2005 as the Iran/Israel/US Project, with a two-week residency at Siena College in upstate New York and has continued over the past two years.

The central premise of Benedictus was inspired by an actual event. In 2005, President Mohammad Khatami of Iran and President Moshe Katsav of Israel were seated alphabetically at the service for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Although the two countries had broken off diplomatic relations in 1979 with the fall of the Shah and the installation of the revolutionary government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the two presidents apparently shook hands and exchanged a few words in Farsi, since they both had been born some 50 years earlier in the Iranian province of Yazd.

Artists’ Biographies

Mahmood Karimi-Hakak is the Artistic Director of Mahak International Artists Inc. and a Professor of Creative Arts at Siena College, has written, produced, directed, designed and/or acted in over 50 stage and screen plays in the U.S., Europe and his native Iran. His plays and films have received international acclaim and awards at such festivals as Edinburgh, Netherlands, Berlin, Delhi, Montreal, New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Springs, Maryland and Tehran. A recipient of the 2005 Raymond C. Kennedy Award, Dr. Karimi-Hakak’s literary credits include five plays, two books of poetry, several translations from and into Persian and numerous articles and interviews both in English and Persian. Prior to his tenure at Siena, he taught theatre in Belgium, Germany and his native Iran, as well as CUNY, Towson and Southern Methodist Universities here in the U.S. and served as Artistic Director of Community of International Artists (CIA), Forough Ensemble (FE) and Creative Arts Street Theatre (CAST).

Motti Lerner is a widely known and internationally sought after contemporary Israeli playwright, screenwriter and scholar. His critically acclaimed plays have consistently sought to open up public discourse on the complex reality of Israeli life and offer alternatives to consensus views. His film script Spring 1941 is currently in production with Joseph Fiennes in the title role. Motti has received several awards for his writing including the Meskin Award for the best play (1985), and the Israel Motion Picture Academy award for best TV drama in 1995 and in 2004. He frequently lectures at European and American Universities on playwriting, Israeli theatre and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is actively involved in the peace movement in Israel. His American productions include: Pangs of the Messiah at Theatre J in Washington DC, The murder of Isaac at Centerstage Theatre, Baltimore, and also as part of the New York Now festival at Public Theatre in NY, Exile in Jerusalem at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre of Detroit and also at La Mama Theatre in New York, Hard Love at Theatre Or in Durham, NC and also at Victory Gardens in Chicago, Passing The Love of Women at Theatre J in Washington DC, Coming Home at Golden Thread Productions, San Francisco and Autumn at the Georgetown University Program. He has served as writer in residence at The Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies in Oxford and as a visiting professor at Duke University. In 1994, Motti was awarded the Prime Minister of Israel Award for Writers. He has also participated at the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa. He currently teaches Political Playwriting at Tel Aviv University.

Roberta Levitow has directed over 50 productions in NYC, LA and nationally, with a particular expertise in developing original writing and new work. She is co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, an informal group supporting international theatre exchange at With TWB, Roberta is working with Dr. Cynthia Cohen and Coexistence International at Brandeis University as part of a 'Theatre & Peace Building Initiative'. She has led several workshops on an international level, and has served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the National University of Theatre & Film in Bucharest, Romania, as well as a Fulbright Senior Specialist Artist-in-Residence at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She has received several international awards and honors for her work in experimental theatre and theatre workshops, and was the American Honoree at the 15th Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre, 2003. Her accomplishments and writings have been featured in The New York Times and American Theatre Magazine and several international publications and collections. Participation in national service organizations includes Peer Panel for the N.E.A., the Executive Board of SSDC (The Society of Stages Directors and Choreographers) and the Executive Board of TCG (Theatre Communications Group). Visiting Professor at Bennington College from 2000-2005, she taught from 1990-2000 as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at U.C.L.A.

Daniel Michaelson he has created costumes and scenery for Opera, Dance, Off-Broadway and regional theatres. He designed scenery and costumes for the American premiere of'L’Etoile' (Chabrier), and costumes for the American premiere of 'The Goose of Cairo,' (Mozart) and, for the highly acclaimed production of 'Spring Awakening' directed by Liviu Culei at the Public Theater. Outside of the United States his designs have been seen in Germany, England and Japan. Danny has been the Resident Costume Designer at the Juilliard School as well as a Muppet maker. He holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts and has been on the faculty of Bennington College since 1981 teaching Costume Design. Danny is also a professional mediator, and with Bennington College faculty member, Susan Sgorbati,, co-directs Quantum Leap, a program they created for youth at risk in Bennington. Danny has given presentations and workshops both nationally and internationally about Quantum Leap and the use of performance with students at risk.

Torange Yeghiazarian is an Iranian-born theatre artist of Armenian heritage. She writes, directs and performs for theatre. Among her writing and directing credits are AGABA, Publicly Resting, Call Me Mehdi, Behind Glass Windows, Dawn at Midnight, Operation No Penetration, Lysistrata 97! and Waves. Torange received her Master's degree in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University where she collaborated with The San Francisco Mime Troupe in creating the melodrama Torch! Her plays reflect the perspective of the culturally displaced in tackling today’s world of contradictory realities and values. Torange is the Artistic Director of Golden Thread Productions, where she has devoted her professional life to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities through theatre arts.

Ali Pourtash*, a renowned Iranian actor, has performed since age fourteen. He has been a part of numerous Iranian and American TV, theatre and film productions since he came to the US in 1978. Ali has written, directed and produced a number of stage and TV productions. He has traveled his work around the world. Ali lives with his American wife, Melinda, and their two sons in San Diego.

Al Faris*, most recently guest starred on 'The Unit' at the invitation of the creator of the show Mr. David Mamet. His credits also include a recurring guest role on '24' and guest star roles on 'The Shield,' 'Sleeper Cell,' 'JAG,' 'NYPD Blue,' and 'Malcolm in the Middle.' His feature film credits include David Mamet’s 'Spartan,' Vadim Perelman’s 'House of Sand and Fog,' 'Jarhead' directed by Sam Mendes, and 'Ocean’s Twelve' directed by Steven Soderbergh. An Egyptian born Arab-American actor, Al’s most recent starring role in the indie feature 'AmericanEast' - a timely, poignant drama about Arab-Americans living in post-9/11 Los Angeles – will be in competition at the Cairo International Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. His most recent stage appearance prior to 'Benedictus' was in the role of Akhmed in the Moscow Arts Theatre production of the 'The Shelter' at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles which was nominated for five Ovation Awards, including Best Ensemble.

Golden Thread Productions is dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern culture and identity as it is expressed around the globe. This growing theatre company is rapidly gaining international recognition for excellence and innovation. Golden Thread Productions aims to create a world where the common human experience supersedes cultural and political differences by defining the Middle East not by geographical boundaries and political separations, but as the shared experience of the people, who throughout history have been touched by its tales, melodies and aromas. Founded in 1996, Golden Thread Productions exemplifies theatre’s ability to transcend cultural and political boundaries and to encourage an active dialogue among Middle Eastern and non-Middle Eastern communities.

Detailed information about Golden Thread Productions and about Benedictus can be found at

* Member of Actors’ Equity Association and Screen Actors’ Guild

Saturday, September 29 @ 8 pm

Sunday, September 30 @ 8 pm

TICKETED RUN: Opening Night, Monday, October 1st at 8 pm

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm

Sundays at 5pm


1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

TICKETS: Opening Night followed by Gala Reception with the artists: $100

Fridays-Sundays: $25 General Admission,

$12 Students and Seniors

Saturday Matinee: $20 General Admission

$12 for Students and Seniors

BOX OFFICE: (415) 401-8081 or

New audience members can take advantage of our Free Night of Theatre, on Saturday 10/20 for the 2 pm performance.

To do so, please visit